Hundreds of articles have been written about Keystone XL — the controversial pipeline project that's been languishing in permit limbo for the past four years — but one critic is hoping pictures will finally drive his point home.
After researching how gasoline is made from crude oil produced in the Alberta oil sands region, Jim Meyer — a Baltimore-based stand-up comedian and freelance writer — became concerned about the ripple effects of constructing the 1,179-mile long pipeline, which is designed to transport crude oil from Canada to refineries in the United States.
So Meyer and Seattle-based artist Nikki Burch cooked up an illustrated history of the Keystone XL pipeline permit process, originally published on environmental news and commentary site Grist. U.S. News talked to the author to get the lowdown on the project. Excerpts:
What inspired you to take on this project?
The more I read about the tar sands, the more I became concerned about the frankly horrifying possibilities if we were to go forward with using this stuff. It's dirty, it's expensive, and it's getting in the way of coming up with alternatives [to fossil fuels]. The pipeline engenders exploiting this massive quantity of dirty fuel.
What do you hope to achieve?
I hope [the illustrated history] will make people aware that this isn't a done deal yet. It looks like it's going to go through, but there's still a chance to fight this.
Also, it gives people an idea how [the approval process] is going through. I think people have this idea that the current administration is super pro-environment and that hasn't been the case, especially with [the Keystone XL pipeline]. They've done some pretty high-profile stuff to say, 'Hey, we're putting the kibosh on this,' but it's all been temporary and it's all been limited and it's all been with a side message saying, 'Hey, we've got to get this done.'
There's a growing sense that the pipeline will be approved—how does that impact the environmental movement's agenda?
I think it's a massive blow. James Hansen of NASA [has said] burning all of the oil in the tar sands could mean game over for the climate. The numbers he used were a bit hyperbolic, but even without all those darkest [projections], it's a big climate bomb. There's also the issue of this giant amount of CO2 that's going to go into the atmosphere.
Will we see any updates as the permit process progresses?
I think we will, especially if people keep paying attention to it. It was difficult to pick the 10 [slides] we finalized. I originally wrote 25 of them — there's been a lot of steps in the permit process.